One of the most exciting things you can do as a homeowner is to tackle a renovation project. Unfortunately this isn’t just a matter of grabbing a big sledgehammer and starting to knock down walls. Renovations can take a long time: months of you living with constant noise and dust everywhere. Many people make the mistake of going into this process without knowing how to plan a renovation and then are surprised that the project ends up costing more and taking longer than they had anticipated. To avoid finding yourself in this boat, it will help to know how to create a realistic reno timeline and budget.
Make a List
The first step in how to plan a renovation is to know what exactly it is you want to change. Make a list of everything in your home that you like the way it is and everything you think could do with a change.
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Get Everyone’s Input
There may be things in your home that you think are just fine as they are, but that someone else in your household can’t stand. When you make a list of the things you’d like to change, involve everyone in your household and get their input. This will prevent people from feeling left out or that a renovation project was forced upon them.
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Don’t Forget the Seasons
As you’re listing possible renovation projects, think about how seasonal conditions change your experience of a feature of your home. For example, a drafty part of the house can be great in summer, but in winter, it will make heating much harder.
Consider an Energy Evaluation
If you’re going to be renovating anyway, it might be a good idea to make your home more energy efficient. A certified EnerGuide evaluator can analyze your home for current energy efficiency and give you ideas for upgrades that will bring you a smaller hydro bill.
Set Renovation Goals
When you think about renovating a room, set specific renovation goals. Think about what you want the end project to achieve. How will you use the space? How much light will you need for this? How easy will it be to access the room? Having clear goals will help you know what the priorities are.
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Make a List of Ideas
Once you know what you want from a room, you need to find ways to achieve those goals. Look for reno ideas online, in magazines, at home shows and at open house events. You can even look to the stars, like in this space in Oprah’s home.
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Look at What You Have
As you explore renovation ideas, take another look at what you have already. Maybe there’s gorgeous hardwood underneath those carpets. Maybe the hardwood trim just needs refinishing rather than replacing. Maybe a larger window or removing an interior wall is all you need to create a sense of light and space.
Determine Needs and Wants
Once you have your list of renovation goals and ideas, divide these into needs and wants. What do you absolutely have to change? What would be nice to have, but can wait until your budget allows? Knowing your needs and wants will help you prioritize, work out a renovation order of operations and work out a realistic timeline.
Get a General Idea of Costs
Before you set your heart on a project, get an idea of the general cost of such an undertaking. For example, before you start dreaming of that converted basement, do you know how much it costs to lower a basement? This will help you determine if you can afford it and if you need to look for financing options.
Talk Design With a Professional
The next step in the home renovation process is to get a professional to help you with the design. This can be a renovator, a designer or an architect. They will help you create detailed sketches, complete with specifications of the materials to use, that you can then use for cost estimates.
Determine What You Can DIY
DIY is a great way to keep costs down, provided that you know what you’re doing. It can be more expensive for the professionals to fix a mess than to do the renovation project from scratch. Make a list of the steps that you can definitely do yourself and the ones that are best left to the professionals.
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Sort out Your Financing
Before you start working out a detailed budget, but after you’ve got a general idea of the costs involved, sort out how you’re going to pay for the project. If you don’t have enough money saved, you need to apply for a loan. Once your loan application is approved, you’ll have a better idea of how much you can afford to spend.
Inquire About Rebates
Some renovations – especially ones that will make your home more energy efficient or more accessible to the elderly or folks with a disability – can earn you tax rebates. Find out about the tax benefits, rebates and grants you can get for renovating in Canada, since these can be the difference between pipe dream and reality.
Sort out the Paperwork
Depending on the type of project, you may need permission from the local municipality. This is especially likely if the project is going to involve structural changes, like when you’re building your own deck. A renovation professional can help you sort out the red tape and paperwork.
Plan for Unexpected Expenses
Once you have your financing approved and know how much you can afford to spend, set aside between 10 and 20 per cent of that money for unexpected expenses. This will help reduce delays when something costs more than you thought it would.
Make a Schedule
Once you know what you want to do, you need to work out the logical order of doing things in. For example, it makes no sense to redo the bathroom floors before changing the floor plan. A good home renovation timeline template can help you determine what needs to happen when.
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Make a Detailed Plan
You can also use the timeline template to help you work out a detailed home renovation plan. Create a spreadsheet that details every step of the way, as well as the labour and materials this will entail. Then add cost and time estimates for each item.
Related: Common Renovating Costs: Flooring
Compare Contractor Costs
Contact at least three contractors for quotes on what they will charge you for the project and how long it will take. Depending on their responses, you may need to adjust your plan and eliminate some of the needs and wants.
Ask Your Contractor to Check Your Plan
Once you’ve chosen a contractor, ask them to look at your plan and see if there’s anything you may have missed. They will also be able to tell you if your budget is unrealistic.
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Be Upfront About Budget
When you speak to your contractor, be upfront about your budget, especially if it’s a tight one. This way, they can help you find cheaper alternatives if necessary and they can help you adjust your plan so that you stay on budget.
Related: Bryan Baeumler’s 8 Easy Reno Projects That Practically Pay for Themselves
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